An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

NEWS | June 19, 2024

NATO Allies Participate in Joint Personnel Recovery Exercise

By ass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Mario Coto, USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20)

Service members assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 28, in coordination with British and Lithuanian allies, participated in a personnel recovery exercise June 10, 2024, in the Baltic Sea.

The exercise consisted of a two-part training plan, with the Royal Navy and their Lithuanian counterparts working hand in hand with HSC-28, as well as enacting practices that would help develop valuable skills while validating response capabilities and interoperability during personnel recovery operations.

The scenario involved a recovery of isolated personnel from the Baltic Sea, and simulated the ejection of two Swedish pilots into the sea. Royal Navy small craft placed two individuals in the water, a dummy and one live person, a SERE Specialist, to simulate the lost pilots.

While the Lithuanian Navy Ship LNS Skalvis (P14) recovered the dummy, a MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter attached to HSC-28 deployed a rescue swimmer into the water and recovered the live survivor, who then was dropped off onto one of the Royal Navy vessels, HMS Example, and completing the evolution.

“The exercise went very well overall. We were able to flex our communication lines between NATO partners to meet the challenges of a joint personnel recovery in a semi-contested environment,” said Lt. Alec Ferley, one of the participating pilots assigned to HSC-28. “On a unit level, it allowed HSC-28 an opportunity to hoist personnel to small unfamiliar vessels in rough seas. This provided an invaluable training opportunity in a highly dynamic environment.”

One of the main goals of this personnel recovery exercise is precisely to test this joint operation between NATO allies, integrating with U.S. helicopters and conduct similar training with other partner nations during a variety of weather and sea state conditions.

“We are looking forward to building on this exercise to form more cohesive partnerships, and integrated lines of communications with NATO partners to effectively execute exercises like the joint personnel exercise,” said Ferley.

Exercises such as this one showcase one of many partnership efforts between countries in the NATO Alliance, giving the nations in the region chances to learn and hone skills that have an impact on potential future operations.

Mount Whitney, forward deployed to Gaeta, Italy operates with a combined crew of U.S. Sailors and Military Sealift Command civil service mariners in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe and Africa.

U.S. 6th Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied, and interagency partners, in order to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa. USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20) is the U.S. 6th Fleet flagship, homeported in Gaeta, and operates with a combined crew of U.S. Sailors and Military Sealift Command civil service mariners.

For over 80 years, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-U.S. Naval Forces Africa (NAVEUR-NAVAF) has forged strategic relationships with our Allies and Partners, leveraging a foundation of shared values to preserve security and stability.

Headquartered in Naples, Italy, NAVEUR-NAVAF operates U.S. naval forces in the U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) and U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM) areas of responsibility. U.S. Sixth Fleet is permanently assigned to NAVEUR-NAVAF, and employs maritime forces through the full spectrum of joint and naval operations.

BALTOPS24 is the premier maritime-focused exercise in the Baltic Region. The exercise, led by U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa and executed by Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO, provides a unique training opportunity to strengthen combined response capabilities critical to preserving freedom of navigation and security in the Baltic Sea.